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Stairs-to-anspirition-4-clIn today’s changing business world with new technologies, new opportunities and plenty of uncertainty, succession planning is all the more important. CEOs and senior managers have begun to realise that succession planning is not a luxury that a few multinational organisations can indulge in. It is a necessity for all organisations that seek continued success.

One of the best examples of an organisation that has put succession planning in place is General Electric (GE).

Jack Welch, who started working at GE in 1960, became the CEO in 1981 and during this time, he increased GE’s net value from $13 to $410 billion. After a few years as CEO, Jack Welch said: “From now on, choosing my successor is the most important decision I will make. It occupies a considerable amount of thought almost every day.”

GE’s succession process began in 1994 and after six years, when Jack Welch was about to retire, GE announced that Jeffrey R Immelt – Head of Medical Systems Business, would take over.

Another good example is Apple Inc. After having been the CEO of Apple for 14 years, Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO and nominated COO Tim Cook as his successor.

After the death of Steve Jobs, people assumed the decision had been rushed due to Job’s health. In fact it was due to good succession planning.Cook served as Apple’s CEO for two months in 2004 and again in 2009 for several months when Jobs took time off due to his health. During that time, Cook was responsible for most of Apple’s day-to-day operations. Cook proved to be the best possible successor to Jobs owing to his outstanding contribution – spanning 13 years – to Apple’s growth, and having been mentored by Jobs himself.

However, succession planning is not relevant to CEOs alone. Everyone in a management position should think about this seriously. However, most people fear that if they develop a successor before they leave the organisation, they will be replaced immediately.
Although this may be true to a certain extent, succession planning can also lead to better opportunities for the mentor within the organisation. Chances of promotion increase, leaving mentors free to focus on devising and executing strategic decisions and tasks they would not have had time for earlier, without a successor.

As Marshall Goldsmith, the American leadership coach and best-selling author said:“What got you here, won’t get you there.”

Therefore, it is crucial to have your substitute in place if you want to move forward.

– Zeeshan Lakhpaty
The writer is a professional corporate trainer. zeeshan@peopleexcellence.biz

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 8, 2014.